After a few nights in Campeche, we arrived in Merida and stayed there a couple of nights. The capital of the state of Yucatan and the biggest city of the peninsula is another amazingly well preserved colonial city. I really enjoyed walking around this colorful town.
Merida was founded in 1542 by Spanish conquistadors on the site of a Mayan city and was named after the town of Merida in Spain. Like many colonial cities, it was built according to a grid pattern around a main plaza. In the 19th century, the area prospered from the production of sisal and the result of this concentration of wealth can still be seen today as beautiful colonial buildings line the city streets of Merida.
From Merida, we easily Dzibilchaltum by car. This site with an unpronounceable name is a Maya archaeological site located about 30 minutes from Merida. The most famous structure is the Temple of the Seven Dolls, where seven small effigies were found. On the vernal equinox, it is said that you can observe the sunrise through the temple’s doorways.
The other major feature of Dzibilchaltún is its cenote.
From Merida, it is very easy to reach Progreso, a beach town on the Gulf of Mexico. Beaches in Mexico are surprisingly often deserted and we had this one just for us! We spent a nice day by the beach and then went back to Merida.
We then left Merida after a few days, heading to Izamal. On our way, we felt like making a stop at a cenote because it was very hot. We did not know where to stop so we asked local people where we could find a cenote. And this is how we ended up discovering this amazing site! It was not easy to find and we asked several people on the road where to go. And finally we reached this little village, lost in the middle of nowhere.
We found our way to the cenotes and were told that there are actually several cenotes on this site. The locals built a railroad themselves to connect the different cenotes. We embarked on a little wagon, drawn by a horse! Our “driver” would use his feet to slow down or stop. Since there is only one railroad, when another wagon was coming from the opposite direction, we had to get off, take the wagon off the railroad, let the other passengers pass by and put the wagon back on to the track!
About about half an hour, we reached the first cenote. We could not believe what happened next. All we could see was the jungle. It seemed there was no cenote. Our guide told us to follow him. And we saw him disappearing inside tree! The cenote was located in a cave! That’s why we could not see it from outside!
I was a little scared and not sure I wanted to go inside a tree but I could not wait to discover this mysterious place. So after a few seconds of hesitation, we followed our guide into the earth. We went down a scale and reached a cave where we saw several cenotes.
Everything was dark of course. The air was very humid. We were in a cave! We grabbed a few flashlights and started exploring the place. Even with the flashlights it was very dark. When we reached the cenote, it was so dark that it felt scary and we did not want to get into the water. We then went back up, happy to have explored this amazing place, but also to be back in the open air!
We then hopped back onto our little carriage and reached the second cenote. This one was really amazing. It was a very deep circular pool inside a cave. As it was semi open, the light was reaching out and we managed to swim. At first I felt scared. The cenote looked so deep! The water was so transparent that we could see the bottom, meters down! We were given life vests and finally I got in. The water was a bit cold but it was so hot outside that it was very pleasant to swim in these cool waters.
We then made our way to a last cenote. We had to look through a “hole” to see it but we could not get close to the water.
Izamal was another beautiful and unexpected surprise. It is a “pueblo magico” how they say in Mexico and it truly deserves this name. All the buildings are painted in a beautiful yellow color tone and the whole city is very peaceful and harmonious.